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Internal Details

The Pro's motherboard (Figure 3) is marked Ver 2.0 vs. the Ver 1.1 of the N5200 test sample. I'm guessing that the top most chip in the photo is the CPU, which now has a fan due to the faster 1.5 GHz clock rate. The other obvious change is that the Flash Disk module has been increased from 64 to 128 MB.

Inside the N5200
Click to enlarge image

Figure 3: N5200 Pro motherboard

There is still the single DIMM slot, which now has a 512 MB module. The rider module at the lower left is the single gigabit LAN port version. It actually holds just an RJ45 connector, since the motherboard has two Intel 82541 gigabit Ethernet controllers for the WAN and LAN port. The 5200BR PRO model has a rider board with a 4 port gigabit switch.

Other key chips on the board include an Intel 82801DBM I/O Controller Hub 4 Mobile, SMSC LPC47M182 Advanced I/O Controller, PLX NET2282 PCI to Hi-Speed USB 2.0 controller and Marvell 88SX6081 8-port Serial ATA II, 3 Gbps PCI-X host controller

Not visible in this photo is the drive backplane that plugs into a connector on back of the main board and is bolted to a sheet metal card cage. The backplane provides blind-mate connection to five 3.5" SATA II drives, which will be formatted using the ext3 filesystem. Drives up to 1 TB are supported (a PDF list of supported drives can be downloaded here).

Feature Differences

The biggest new feature of the Pro is its iSCSI support. Figure 4 shows the iSCSI volume creation screen, which is reached via the Space Allocation page (Figure 5), which is, in turn, a button on the RAID configuration page.

iSCSI configuration

Figure 4: iSCSI configuration

I didn't test this feature, but I checked the Thecus User Group forum for related discussions and didn't find a lot of complaints about problems using the feature. Note that you need to allocate both USB (for using the N5200 as an attached USB drive) and iSCSI space when you create your RAID volume (Figure 5).

Space Allocation screen

Figure 5: Space Allocation screen

The new Stackable feature (Figure 6) required some digging to find out what it was, since it's not described in the N5200 Pro Users Guide. But after some Googling, I found a reference to the Stackable User Guide on Thecus' esupport site and downloaded it from there. (Maybe I missed it, but there isn't a link to the esupport site from Thecus' main Support pages.)

Basically, the Stackable feature lets you add up to 20 TB of iSCSI targets that are treated as local storage on your 5200 Pro. I didn't see too many references to "stackable" in the Thecus Forums, so can't say whether users are having any problems with the feature, or even using it.

Stackable Feature illustration

Figure 6: Stackable Feature illustration

Another new entry on the Storage menu is ISO Mount, which is also not documented in the User Guide. But Google once again enabled me to learn that this feature just lets you share .ISO files stored on the Pro as read-only share folders.

Even though the Pro is primarily aimed at business users, Thecus must have felt some pull from consumers looking for speedy media serving. Figure 7 shows the Mediabolic media server that has been added as a nod to their needs. The User Guide says the server is compatible with UPnP AV and DLNA devices and makes no mention of iTunes capability. Note that you need to manually rescan folders.

Media Server

Figure 7: Media Server

There have been some tweaks to the Disks and RAID features. The Disk Power Management feature (idle disk spin down) now works and knocked power consumption from 71 to 44W (with five drives). There is also a Power Mgmt selection under the Status menu that reveals a scheduled power on/off feature.

Selecting the Storage > RAID menu now takes you to the RAID Information screen, which shows that you can define multiple RAID arrays. Here, I have four drives configured as a RAID 10 array and the fifth drive as a separate drive.

The handy pie chart changes depending on the array that you have selected. In Figure 8, I have selected the JBOD volume that includes an iSCSI target.

Stackable Feature illustration

Figure 8: RAID Information

As with the earlier N5200, both RAID (level) migration and expansion are supported, with the interface greying out unavailable options. All services still are briefly stopped while RAID volumes are created, but are re-enabled during the resync process. Like many NASes, the PRO does not flag you to drive problems or rebuild progress when you log in. You only get that information by visiting the RAID information page or checking the log.

With the faster processor, RAID rebuild times are shorter. For my configuration of five 160 GB drives, I clocked a RAID 5 rebuild and resync at ~2hr, 15 min and a RAID 10 four drive rebuild and resync at just about 3 hours.

Since I previously checked the N5200's ability to survive drive failure (even two drives for RAID 6), I didn't recheck it.

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